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Sandhill Crane sandhill crane


Identification and Pictures and Video


Video above is a pair of Sandhill Cranes walking around a field, they have a nest nearby.  For other bird videos please visit our Youtube channel and subscribe or like our videos.

Most videos on my site were taken with the Canon HG10 camcorder.

Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis)sandhill cranes

The Sandhill Crane is a tall gray bird, with long legs, a long neck, a bald red crown, and a thick tufted plume of long, drooping feathers over the tail. they also have a long pointed bill and white cheeks. Some birds will also have a rust color.  The birds often rub mud on their feathers while preening, giving them the red or brown color. They grow to around 47 inches tall. Their wing span is 6 to 7 feet and when they fly their neck is fully extended, unlike the similar species (blue herons), which fly with their neck in an S shape.  Male and female cranes look alike.  The young birds are brownish and do not have the red crown.  They can live for 20 years.  They have been found to structurally the same as 10 million old fossils. 

Sandhill cranes are often found in large groups or pairs, and are very social birds.




The call of Sandhill cranes sounds like low musical rattle, and can have varied lengths, depending on why they are calling.  Two other sounds they make are tuk-tuk-tuk and a goose-like honk.  Listen to the rattle sound.  You can also hear this rattle in the video above.

Preferred Habitat

Sandhill cranes are usually found in in freshwater wetlands, marshes, river basins, wet grasslands, and prairies.  There are several subpopulations, some of the cranes are migratory, and some are not.  For most of those that do migrate the summer range is northern U.S. through Canada and Alaska.  They may winter in the southern U.S. and Mexico.  Cranes gather in large flocks before a migration.

Breeding and Nesting

Breeding season for Sandhill cranes is from early spring to late fall.  The cranes mate for life.  Pairs will often do displays where they dance, bow, jump, and raise their bills together.  A pair will defend its nesting territory with singing duets, displays, and sometimes stabbing with the bill or kicking aggressively.  The two birds build a nest that is a hay like mound in a marsh, and the female usually lays 2 pale eggs with brown spots.  Both birds incubate the eggs for around 30 days, the female is usually the only one that takes the night shift.  The young birds can follow the parents and forage within 24 hours of hatching, and they can fly in about 2 months. The young birds may stay with their parents until about a month before nesting season.


While the cranes like to eat grains and plants, they will also eat invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians and small mammals.

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